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City wants to study drop in JFK’s cargo

Despite processing 1.3 million tons of air freight last year, John F. Kennedy International Airport has faced shrinking cargo business over the last half decade and the city has asked for a study to improve the airport’s economy.

The city Economic Development Corp. issued a request for proposal in February for a consultant to conduct a study on how to increase and expand the air cargo business at the airport.

JFK air cargo operations provided 49,000 jobs last year, according to the EDC, and the agency said stability of the business is crucial to the borough’s economy.

“With air cargo competition increasing across the country, this study will help identify opportunities to keep our region competitive and growing,” EDC President Seth Pinksy said in a statement.

The airport accounts for more than half of the cargo business at the three tri-state area airports, according to the EDC.

Between 2006 and 2009, the amount of goods coming into JFK declined from 1.63 million tons to 1.14 million tons, or a roughly 30 percent drop, the EDC said. The biggest decline took place between 2008, where there were approximately 1.44 million tons of air cargo, and 2009 with a 21.2 percent loss of goods, according to the EDC.

During that same period, the nation’s top 50 airports saw a 10.1 percent decline in cargo operations, the EDC said.

Although there was a slight increase in cargo last year, with 1.3 million tons of goods coming into the airport, city officials said the numbers are still low compared to the last decade.

The consultant who is chosen to spearhead the study that is being funded by the EDC and the Port Authority will research other airports and cargo getaways and identify JFK’s position in the air cargo business, the EDC said. The study will also look into air cargo marketing trends, the costs and benefits of doing business at the airport and any opportunities for industry growth, according to the agency.

“Our partnering with EDC on this study will give us the tools we need to ensure that JFK continues to be a worldwide leader in the air cargo industry,” Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward´╗┐ said in a statement.

City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) said the study was a good idea because the airport has become underused by the shipping industry for years. Companies have been using other airports outside New York and shipping their goods into the city via trucks because getting goods in and out of JFK via the highways takes more time´╗┐, according to the Councilman.

Sanders has spoken with the EDC about ideas for enhancing the cargo business, including the possibility of shipping goods via boat from the airport through Jamaica Bay.

“We have to build modern facilities and find smarter ways to moving goods,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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